What if you took the Tekken development team and told them to put their own unique spin on the classic Final Fight-style beat-'em-up formula? You'd get Urban Reign, a new action game from Namco that'll let you hit the street with a whopping 60 playable characters and 100 missions of bare-knuckled brawling. Namco swung by chez GameSpot today with a new build of the game and let us put our hands on the multiplayer mode in Urban Reign, which will accommodate up to four players.
But let's back up a second. The combat itself in Urban Reign is straightforward and fairly simplified, so it's easy to get a handle on and start cracking skulls right away. You've got a single strike button, which lets you perform combos; a grapple button that facilitates throws; and a dash button that lets you move around quickly, and even run up and flip off of walls if your character is agile enough. Hitting strike and grapple at the same time will unleash a frenzied special move. There's no block available, per se; instead, you've got an evade button that will only help you out if you time your press closely with an enemy's oncoming attack.
There will also be a ton of weapons, from knives and pipes to baseball bats and swords, which you can use against enemies. In the single-player game, you'll fight alongside artificial intelligence companions, and the two of you can grapple an enemy at the same time to do a really vicious attack in tandem (this obviously works with a live second player as well, in the cooperative parts).
So about that multiplayer. There are three modes available: versus, weapon battle, and destruction. The versus mode is self-explanatory, since it works just like deathmatch, and you can set up team battles, incorporate AI players to fill out the roster, and so on. Weapon battle lets you select one weapon before a match, and that weapon will be dropped into the middle of the arena when you start fighting. Whoever manages to hold the weapon the longest by the end of the match wins. Amusingly, not all the weapons are lethal--we played one match where the sought-after object was a teddy bear (don't ask). Finally, destruction mode starts every fighter off in front of a big wooden totem and drops a couple of heavy mallets in the middle of the level. To take a player out of the match, you only have to grab a mallet and beat the heck out of his or her totem until it shatters. Or, you know, you can just beat them senseless.
In the story mode, you'll actually be limited to one playable character who will evolve over the course of the storyline. But once you finish the single-player game, you'll unlock free mode, which will make some of those 60 characters available, and then as you play through free mode and the challenge mode, you'll obtain even more of them. Even Paul Phoenix and Marshall Law from Tekken make an appearance, once you've unlocked enough characters. Each fighter has his or her own style of fighting, from kickboxing to wrestling to various styles of kung fu, and each fighter has unique ratings for strength in various areas of the body and so on.
The fighting in Urban Reign actually has a pretty Tekken-like feel, which shouldn't really come as a surprise. You can air-juggle opponents with the proper timing, and the strikes actually produce fire- and lightning-like effects, just like in Namco's long-running fighting series. The four-player matches are fast-paced and don't last very long, which should make it a good pick-up-and-play game after you've plowed through the storyline. Urban Reign is due out in mid-September, so we'll have a final verdict on the game soon.